Monday, October 7, 2019

OAS met with Nicaraguan human rights victims (Oct. 7, 2019)

Members of the OAS special commission for Nicaragua met with victims of government repression last week. The victims pointed to perpetrators of human rights violations and said the military was an accomplice in violence against anti-Ortega activists. The victims had to travel to El Salvador to meet with members of the commission, as Nicaragua's government blocked the diplomats' entry to the country, reports Confidencial

Commission members have a maximum of 75 days from last August 30 to deliver a report about their activities. Though they were unable to meet with government authorities, U.S. ambassador to the OAS Carlos Trujillo said they have the “necessary information to produce the report.”

Activists disputed the narrative of "normalcy" the Ortega administration is pushing. Though protests are not being actively quashed as in 2018, the repressive apparatus that murders peasants in rural areas, which occupies media outlets and confiscates NGOs, remains intact, reports Confidencial separately. And last month the Catholic Church warned agains the ongoing "criminalization" of protests. (Confidencial)

The Nicaraguan government separately said it will not return a private TV station seized by police in December -- 100% Noticias -- to its owners. Two of its journalists were detained for six months. (Associated Press) It part of a broader set of repressive policies, including control of printing supplies, that are forcing news outlets to close, report Confidencial and Voice of America. (See Sept. 27's briefs.)

More Nicaragua
  • Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is betting on geopolitical insignificance to help him stay in power, hoping for international players to forget the scope of the protracted political crisis the country is undergoing, said former foreign minister Francisco Aguirre Sacasa in an interview with Confidencial.
  • Opposition activists with the Alianza Cívica and Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco asked for international pressure in the form of individual sanctions against government officials involved in human rights violations and repression, reports Confidencial.
  • Two polls point to increasing electoral support for an opposition coalition that would include both the Alianza Cívica and Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco. A CID-Gallup poll found that 44 percent of the electoral would support such a coalition, while 36 percent would support a Frente Sandinista option. Another poll put the opposition at 27.2 percent against 26.9 for an Ortega candidate -- in that poll a far higher number, 38 percent, were undecided. (Confidencial)
  • Repression of the 2018 protests killed more than 320 people, and forced 70,000 into exile. An association of mothers of the victims inaugurated an exhibit in their memory at the Universidad Central de Nicaragua, in Managua. (El País)
  • After a year in exile, university opposition leader Lesther Alemán returned to Nicaragua, but denounced that guarantees for his safety and that of other opposition leaders are insufficient. (La Prensa) He joins other political leaders, including Félix Maradiaga, who who say they have suffered harassment and intimidation by armed groups and police officers since returning, reports Artículo 66.
News Briefs

  • Ongoing anti-government protests in Haiti entered their fourth week today -- at least 17 people have been killed and nearly 200 injured, reports the Associated Press. Opposition leaders have called on supporters to maintain street presence until President Jovenel Moïse resigns. On Friday thousands of Haitians marched in front of the United Nations’ headquarters, and over the weekend the U.N.’s Mission for Justice Support in Haiti issued a statement saying it was deeply concerned about the effect of what it called a protracted political crisis.
  • Ecuadorean indigenous groups led other demonstrators in a fifth day of road blocks, in protest of President Lenín Moreno's economic austerity measures. Government authorities announced today they have arrested 477 people during the unrest, since last week, and Moreno insists he will maintain the elimination of fuel subsidies that aroused popular anger. The government says two dozen policemen have been injured in clashes with protesters, while a man died when he was hit by a car and an ambulance could not reach him through the barricades. (BBC, Reuters)
  • Moreno's austerity policies are part of a $4.2 billion loan deal with the IMF. Debt campaigners are pointing to Ecuador and Argentina as examples of the international organization's "reckless lending," reports the Guardian.
  • Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele again tweeted against a critical news outlet, Revista Factum, which he falsely accuses of being owned by a political opponent. (See Sept. 18's post.)
  • Leaders in Latin America should be wary of the cascade effect anti-press rhetoric has in a context of unprecedented violence against journalists, according to the Inter American Press Association's Press Freedom Commission head, Roberto Rock, reports EFE.
  • In a time when we have more information than ever before, that data's veracity is increasingly questioned, writes Moisés Naím in his El País column.
  • Even as border control for flows heading north across Central America focus on stopping migrants, contraband headed the other way meets with significantly less resistance. El País and El Faro report on tons of illegal maize shipments that enter Guatemala from Mexico. The maize then wends its way into Honduras and El Salvador, falsely labeled as a Guatemalan product.
  • Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov met Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro on Saturday, in Caracas, reports Reuters. Borisov reiterated Moscow’s support for Maduro, even though many other nations regard him as an illegitimate ruler.
  • Much of Peru's political crisis can be traced to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, and corruption investigations that implicated a slew of high profile politicians, including most living former presidents, reports the New York Times.
  • Union leaders and ranchers in the Brazilian state of Para admitted to the New York Times that they felt emboldened by President Jair Bolsonaro to push back against vilified conservation efforts in the area.
  • International public opinion is unlikely to significantly sway Bolsonaro’s policies when it comes to rapidly rising deforestation and fires in the Amazon. Instead, agribusiness interests are probably “the only place where pressure can be effective,” according to former Brazilian environment minister Marina Silva, in an interview with Americas Quarterly.
  • Indigenous groups have found a key ally in the fight to preserve the Amazon: the Catholic Church. In Rome an unprecedented synod of Catholic bishops from across the region started yesterday, and leaders say the Catholic church should firmly place itself alongside the region’s indigenous people and defending their territorial rights and way of life. (Guardian) The effort has attracted a conservative backlash within the Church, against Pope Francis, reports the Washington Post.
Gran Chaco
  • It's not just the Amazon under threat, the Gran Chaco forest is one of the world’s largest and most threatened forests, with one of the highest deforestation rates in the world, reports the Guardian.
  • Several UK supermarkets cannot guarantee that soya grown on deforested land is not in their supply chain, reports the Guardian.
  • Slow recovery on the Caribbean island of St. Martin, which was hit hard by Hurricane Irma in 2017, shows just how difficult coming back from such a storm can be on a small island, with challenges that go well beyond just the size of financial aid packages, reports the New York Times.
El Salvador
  • Salvadoran authorities arrested 11 people who formed part of a criminal network involving police officers — including some elite forces — that allegedly carried out more than two dozen contract killings. (Associated Press) The arrests show how nearly 30 years after the country’s civil war, the threat of extrajudicial killings by death squads has not abated, according to InSight Crime.
  • Twelve environmental activists have been killed so far this year in Mexico, one of the deadliest countries in the world for land defenders, warns Amnesty International. Oaxaca and Chiapas are among the country's most dangerous states for environmentalists. (Animal Político)
  • Mexico is in the grips of a deadly arms race and most of the illicit guns in private hands were smuggled from the U.S., reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • The resignation of supreme court justice Eduardo Medina Mora last week comes in a context of conflict between President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the judicial power, and opens up the potential for reconfiguration in the country's highest court, argue Javier Martín Reyes and Jesús Garza Onofre in Post Opinión.
  • Two more suspects in the the Ayotzinapa disappearances case were released, due to lack of evidence, reports Animal Político. The presidential commission in charge of reinvestigating the landmark human rights case lamented the justice system's "mechanical interpretation of the law." (See Sept. 17's briefs.)
  • Former Pemex exec Edgar Torres received a a $165 million fine as part of an investigation into the Mexican state oil giant's purchase of a defunct fertilizer company, reports AFP. Torres was identified as a close associate of former Pemex chief executive Emilio Lozoya, a top adviser to ex-president Enrique Pena Nieto. There is an arrest warrant for Lozoya, whose whereabouts are currently unknown. (See May 29's post.)
  • A new volume in a biography of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher gives more detail regarding the close friendship she shared with Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet. (Guardian)

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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